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Program Philosophy


VCFC programs reflect the research-based understanding that play is essential to children’s health and well-being, and foundational to children’s learning. VCFC supports children in creating their own knowledge through hands-on experiences and child-initiated play. Teachers provide encouragement, nurture, protection, security, stimulation, and supervision to children.


The Nature-based program allows Acorn preschoolers to flex their tree climbing skills when exploring the Vanderbilt campus. In addition to developing children’s physical strength, spatial reasoning, focus and concentration, tree climbing experiences provide children with opportunities for risk and rigor -this allows them to develop a disposition for persistence and resilience while they navigate complex problems and implement innovative solutions. It takes courage to climb a tree. It also takes courage to say you are not yet ready to climb a tree. Acorn teachers encourage children to assess their own personal timeline for readiness – this is an important safety strategy.

The VCFC philosophy of Education is inspired by social-constructivist systems thinking theories, including the work of John Dewey, Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, Howard Gardner, and Loris Malaguzzi. Conceptual understandings emerge through a child’s direct engagement with the world. Through primary relationships, shared language and concepts become the tools which children use to absorb social practices and construct their understanding of themselves and their community.


 The Acorn School Emergent Curriculum is featured in the Early Childhood Success video series produced by The Ayers Institute for Teacher Learning & Innovation at Lipscomb University.

 Click on: Child-Led Inquiry in a Pre-K Classroom